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A Call to Battle

Truth for Life / Alistair Begg
The Truth Network Radio
June 18, 2021 4:00 am

A Call to Battle

Truth for Life / Alistair Begg

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June 18, 2021 4:00 am

Believers are called to live at peace with others—but that doesn’t eliminate our conflict in the spiritual realm. Find out how our union with God puts us at odds with one very significant enemy. That’s our subject on Truth For Life with Alistair Begg.


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Most of us live our lives completely unaware of the fact that there is all around us a spiritual conflict occurring, a battle taking place. Today on Truth for Life, Alistair Begg continues his study in Ephesians 6 and explains how our friendship with God puts us at odds with a significant enemy.

Here we are. Just two verses. Finally, be strong in the LORD and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. If you, like me, always hear music playing in the background of things, then you would perhaps agree with me that as we come to this final section, it would certainly not be taps that would be playing in the background—a single bugle call, signaling dusk, in certain cases signaling the end of life.

That would not be it. But rather would be revelae and signaling for the army to be up and to be alert and to be ready for the day. That's the kind of sense of it as we come to it. Paul is making it very, very clear that it is important for everyone who reads this letter, which includes us, to be awake, alert, aware of the enemy, and suitably armed with the resources that are provided for the believer in Christ. Hence his exhortation in verse 10.

You're not going to be able to do this on your own. Therefore, he says, find your strength in the LORD and in the strength of his might. Now, Paul is himself not giving any indication of the fact that he's thinking about shutting up shop or relaxing or going off to Crete to sail for a little while. You can see that in verse 19, his concern is that as the readers of his letter engage in prayer, in making supplication, as he says in verse 18, for all the saints, he very specifically asks that they will pray for him. And they don't pray for him that he might be able to get out of jail. They don't pray for him that his life might become a little easier.

None of those things. They might have been legitimate prayer requests. But he actually prays, you will notice, that words may be given me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel. He said, I want to make sure that wherever I am and whatever my circumstances may be, here I am imprisoned, that I might be bold in continuing to make this wonderful gospel message known.

So if he is not to be ending up just relaxing and throwing in the towel, as it were, neither must they. And it is for that reason that he is alerting them to the reality of the enemy that they face. They are up against one who is powerful, who is wicked, who is cunning, deceitful—described variously throughout the Bible as the devil, as Satan, as the evil one, and so on. And he is making very clear to them that it is because they have become the friends of God that they are now the enemies of the devil himself, that they are inevitably placed in the forefront of a battle.

And he is exerting them to take seriously the challenge that is there. Now, the reason that they are now his enemy is because they were once his friends. And I need to ask you to backtrack with me so that we might set the context properly. If you go back to chapter 2 for just a moment, you discover there at the beginning of chapter 2 that Paul has outlined for us what we might refer to as the human condition outside of Christ. The human condition. What are we like? Or what were we like?

He's writing to believers, remember. Well, he says, we were actually the walking dead. We were physically alive but spiritually dead. Not a very nice way to describe things, and our friends would not like it if we suggested to them that that was the case. But that is what the Bible actually says—that we're making our way through the world and that we are by nature dead.

And that's why he begins in that way, verse 1 of chapter 2, you were dead in the trespasses and in your sins, in which you once walked. In other words, it was the habitual activity of your life. And then he identifies it in this way. Three things. First of all, following the course of this world—in other words, just going downstream with the way in which the world goes.

It didn't occur to you to do anything other than that. Following the prince of the power of the air, namely the evil one, and it is that spirit which is now at work, he says, in the sons of disobedience. There's nothing peculiar about this—amongst whom we all once lived, when we were in the passions of our flesh, carrying out, if you like, or following the desires of the body and the mind. Now, what is this? This is a description, as I say, of the inner disposition of man.

And it expresses itself both physically—hence, he says, the body—and it expresses itself intellectually—hence, the mind. So he says to them, you know, you were alienated from God in the darkness and foolishness of your response to his truth, and as a result of that, you just went along with the crowd. Whittingly or unwittingly, you were engaged in these activities. But he says, gloriously, this is no longer the case. You're no longer the living dead. You are now going to die one day, but you are spiritually alive. And this is because, chapter 1, he says, you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, you believed, and you were sealed with the Holy Spirit.

In other words, you have just been radically changed. In fact, if your Bible is actually open at that page, you look at verse 9 of chapter 1, what Paul is doing here in this opening section, as you know, is he's just giving us this huge symphony of praise for the wonder of God's purpose from eternity. And he says in verse 9 that because of his grace, he's lavished upon us, according to the mystery of his will, and making known to us the mystery of his will according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time to unite all things in him, things in heaven, and things on earth.

Now, this is of great importance, especially in light of what we're going to see. We have an enemy who is diametrically opposed to the purpose of God, which is a purpose as stated for the fullness of time, when he finally wraps things up, to unite all things in heaven and on earth underneath the jurisdiction of Jesus. The evil one hates the idea, is opposed to the idea, is opposed to Christ, and is opposed to the followers of Christ. That is what Paul is pointing out here. Now, you realize, when he states that as the purpose from all of eternity, that the balance of the book of Ephesians then bears this out. You suddenly see that the closing section—which is ours now from verse 10—that the closing section is not a new idea tacked on at the end of the letter. It's often regarded in that way.

People do series, and Gurnell has a very famous book on the Christian incomplete warfare. And it is a tempting thing to do. But it's not right to do. Because what Paul is pointing out to them when he begins, Finally, in some of the sources that give to us our English translations, the word is not translated finally, it's translated henceforward. So in other words, I'm not just saying, Finally, here's a few thoughts about the devil before I wrap this up. No, what he's saying is this. Now on, from now on, between the two comings of Jesus, there will be no cessation to these hostilities. There will be no ceasefires. Until it is all wrapped up, finally, you need to know that the evil one seeks to come and disrupt all of that which God establishes for unity.

Now, just track back through that, right? In the church. What's the biggest problem in churches? Disunity.

Well, I'm annoyed, you're annoyed, she's annoyed, I didn't like that, I don't like that, I don't like the next thing. Well, these are all natural, unhelpful responses, but behind them is the work of the evil one. When you see the breakdown between races, it's the work of the evil one. When you see a marriage that is beginning to crumble, it is ultimately the work of the evil one.

It is not simply that I like to sleep with the windows open and you like to sleep with the windows closed, so goodbye, goodbye, goodbye. No, it is something far more significant than that. That may not be in the forefront of our thinking, but that's what the Bible says. And the real question, as we will see in a moment or two as we finish, is, Do you actually believe the Bible? That's the real question. You see, Paul is not writing here to stimulate their curiosity about the notion of satanic involvement.

No! He is actually writing to make them clearly aware of the hostility that they face. They are facing the challenge, as he's already outlined, of the world in which they live. They're not only in Christ, they're in Ephesus. In Ephesus—remember what was Ephesus?

Occult. Artemus. Great is Diana of the Ephesians.

Great is Artemus. It would have been impossible to live in Ephesus without being confronted by that. But now you've become a new person in Jesus. It hasn't removed you from Ephesus.

It hasn't removed you from that context. And the same is true for all of us. We live in a world in Christ but in Cleveland. And the inner disposition of our hearts is drawn to that which is opposed to Christ. That's why Paul says in Romans 7, he says, The good that I want to do I don't do, and the bad I don't want to do I end up doing it.

How in the world does that keep happening? Because the inner disposition of our hearts, although renewed, sin no longer reigns, but it remains. And the work of the evil one is to bring the attractive nature of a world in its orientation against God and opposed to God and come to us and say, Look, it's far more fun over here.

You don't want to have to do what these people are on about. The law of God? Who believes the law of God?

Who pays any attention to the commandments of God? That was another time. It was another place. It was another era. That was the pilgrim fathers.

That was whatever it was. You see? And if we're not careful, we say, Oh, there's a good point to that. And maybe marriage is not just what marriage is. Maybe it doesn't really matter. The devil wants to say, That's the way to think.

That's it. Now, you see, this reality—and it is a reality—is not something that Paul is introducing out of the blue. But it is there from the very beginning of the Bible, and it is there from the very beginning of the ministry of Jesus. The same devil who opposed Jesus in the wilderness is entirely opposed, is the enemy of all who are in Christ. And this enemy is not an inanimate force. So let's be perfectly clear that what Paul is talking about here is a personal being—a personal being who does not act alone. That's why as you go down in your text, you will see that we're up against, he says—certainly not flesh and blood—rulers, authorities, cosmic powers of the present darkness against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. We'll come back to this. But for now, note this. The devil is not a solitary power.

He has his agents, and he has his agencies. Now, how would we ever arrive at this if we were not just studying the Bible? Because, after all, let me pause and acknowledge the voice that's going around in at least a few heads and minds. There's at least one or two people out there going, Come on, babe, come off it. This is not the case. No. We've outgrown these things. This is not Little House on the Prairie.

No. We're materialists. We're rationalists. We're scientists. You might as well ask us to believe in fairies at the bottom of our garden as to believe what you are saying right now concerning a personal devil and his agents.

And yet, you know, there's something very interesting—at least to me, maybe to you. We're told all the time that post-Enlightenment, we have now been living in the great age of reason. Reason is now opposed to anything that would challenge it in terms of faith. Faith is regarded as a leap into the dark, a leap into oblivion.

It is a conjecture. It is a wishful desire or design to grab hold of something that will make sense of our journey through life. Whereas, if you would stick with the materialist, then you would be a lot better off. In fact, it goes further than that, and the idea is that essentially science has delivered a death blow to religion, that now we no longer need to pay attention to this, and any talk of angels on the good side and demons on the bad side is simply dismissed as a superstition of a bygone age when people were up for mythology and glad to embrace it for a wee while.

I may be missing the point, but I think that I picked that up pretty clearly just in the day-to-day routine. And yet, despite that, here are the facts. Here is one description of the circumstances in America written eleven years ago. A growing number of supposedly super-rational men and women now subscribe to a range of New Age cults, paganism, witchcraft, and belief in psychic phenomena such as reincarnation, astrology, and parapsychology. What previously belonged to the province of the Kwak and the charlatan have become mainstream treatments and therapies. Wicca, or witchcraft, and paganism constitute the fastest-growing religious category in America—between 500,000 and 5 million adherents. And if you add New Age spirituality to it, which you should, then the number reaches nearly twenty million people and growing. It's quite amazing, isn't it?

It's amazing! No, it's only amazing if you don't understand that we're up against the schemes of the devil. You see, humanity doesn't even know how to handle history. Past history. Why did everybody kill everybody?

What's the point of that stuff? Present history. Why don't people just have a nice conversation and a cup of tea and just get it all sorted out? Why can't Mom and Dad just love each other?

Why can't this child just do as she's told? You say, You've finally lost your mind. You've got your Bible in front of you. There is in our culture a profound, widespread irrationality.

It is pervasive. Don't you find that you every so often have a conversation with somebody who is totally angry at God? I'm so mad at God! But you say, But just last week you told me you don't believe in God. The person says, I don't believe in God.

But it doesn't mean I can't be mad at him. You say, It doesn't? Man is alienated from God. Thumbs his nose at God. Turns his back on God. And that disunity and that disruption, represented in the chaos of our universe ecologically but also morally, definitely spiritually.

And that's what Paul is saying. What of these great powers at work in the world? Where do they come from? How have they ever come into being?

How can a perfect God create a perfect universe and we find ourselves in this reality? What happened that led to the serpent in the garden, that led to the fall of man, that led to disruption and death? What really matters in this, and where it finally has resolution, is it confronts us with this question. Do I believe the Bible? Am I actually prepared to believe what the Bible says? Our submission to the authority of Scripture is a necessary consequence of our submission to the lordship of Christ. Jesus believed the Bible.

Listen to this final quote, and then we'll be done. We believe in Jesus. That's true of the genuine Christian. We're convinced that he came from heaven and spoke from God. So we are prepared to believe what he taught for the simple reason that it is he who taught it. Therefore, we bring our minds into submission to his mind. We want to conform our thoughts to his thoughts. It is from Jesus that we derive our understanding of God and ourselves, of good and evil, of duty and destiny, of time and eternity, of heaven and hell. Our understanding of everything is conditioned by what Jesus taught.

And this everything means everything. It includes his teaching about the Bible. We have no liberty to exclude anything from Jesus' teaching and say, I believe what he taught about this, but not what he taught about that.

What possible right do we have to be selective? We have no competence to set ourselves up as judges and decide to accept some parts of his teaching while rejecting others. All Jesus' teaching was true. It is the teaching of none other than the Son of God.

So the question is straightforward. Do I believe in Jesus? And if I believe in Jesus, then I believe in the words that Jesus spoke.

And therefore, I believe the Bible. Therefore, when it says, Be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might, then I say, That's a tremendous encouragement. Because I am weak, I'm prone to fall, I'm prone to failure, I have no strength in myself to take on the onslaught against a world that allures me, an inner disposition that drives me, and the devil who opposes me.

But actually, he promises me the resources. What a gracious and good God. We are able to withstand opposition because of the resources made available by our good God.

You're listening to Truth for Life with Alistair Begg. As Alistair pointed out in today's message, our unity with Christ makes us Satan's enemies and targets of his attacks. That's why it's absolutely necessary for us to know how to put on the armor of God. And to better understand what that entails, we're recommending the book, The Whole Armor of God, How Christ's Victory Strengthens Us for Spiritual Warfare. This book walks you through the specific pieces of spiritual armor so you can learn how each one functions.

The whole armor of God will leave you well-equipped for battle. We encourage you to request your copy today when you join our important team of Truth Partners. Truth Partners give a donation each month, and it's that support that brings this daily program to us each day. In fact, we're praying that God will add a large number to the Truth Partner team during the month of June. So if you have benefited from the Bible teaching on Truth for Life, would you please pay it forward and become a Truth Partner today? You can do so by visiting slash truthpartner or by giving us a call at 888-588-7884. And don't forget to request the book. I'm Bob Lapeen. Enjoy your weekend as you worship together with your local church family, and then join us again Monday as we'll learn how to stand firm against the attacks of the enemy. The Bible teaching of Alistair Begg is furnished by Truth for Life, where the Learning is for Living.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-11-02 22:21:51 / 2023-11-02 22:30:12 / 8

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